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Health

Health department links 6 illnesses to raw milk from Pa. dairy store

ConsumersU.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Six people were infected with Campylobacter by raw milk from the Family Cow dairy store in Chambersburg, Pa., including three in Maryland, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Friday.

The bacteria causes diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and can progress into a more serious bloodstream infection, usually two to five days after exposure. The state agency and the health department in Pennsylvania are advising consumers to discard any product bought from this farm since Jan. 1.

The implicated milk comes in plastic gallon, half gallon and pint containers and is sold directly to consumers on the farm and at drop off points and retail stores in Pennsylvania. It's illegal to sell unpasteurized milk in Maryland, though some consumers have reported getting it anyway at pre-determined drop off points.

Raw milk has become popular with some people who believe it has superior nutrition because it's not heated to kill germs like pasteurized milk. Studies, however, have not confirmed this, and federal and state authorities continue to warn about the dangers of unpasteurized milk, ice cream, yogurt and some cheeses.

Last year Maryland reported nearly 600 Campylobacter infections. Infections can also come from eating raw or undercooked poultry or from cross-contamination as well as contaminated water in the developing world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're disappointed that this is being made to look definite when, one, the testing hasn't been completed, and two, the test they did do came from an open jug of milk in one family's refrigerator," said Edwin Shank, who is a fourth generation owner of the Family Cow farm.

He said the bacteria is easily spreadable can could have been introduced into the jug once it was opened by a family member who was already infected. He said he's never heard of a customer becoming sick from his milk, and no one on the farm has been sickened. And he said through five generations his family has been drinking raw milk from their cows "for 100 years."

Shank said that he has a good relationship with the health department and wants customers to know that he disinfects his pipes after every milking and sends samples of milk for testing six times as often as is legally required. He's been selling organic milk for six years and added raw milk three years ago because of strong demand.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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